You've heard about the unpardonable sin, but what is it? Is there really such a thing? What does the Bible say about it? Find out now as Stephen clears up the lingering confusion.
MARK - THE GOSPEL OF ACTION
“THE UNPARDONABLE SIN”
(This part of the sermon not read by Pastor Davey) For our scripture reading, we’re going to read Mark, chapter 3, verses 20 through 35. After reading the scriptures, we’ll remain standing. Again, the scriptures are Mark, chapter 3, verse 20 through 35. “And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when His friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on Him: for they said, ‘He is beside Himself.’ And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth He out devils.’ And He called them unto Him, and said unto them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house. Verily I say unto you, all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: because they said, ‘He hath an unclean spirit.’’ There came then His brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto Him, calling Him. And the multitude sat about Him, and they said unto Him, ‘Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren without seek for Thee.’ And He answered them, saying, ‘Who is My mother, or My brethren?’ And He looked round about on them which sat about Him, and said, ‘Behold My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and My sister, and mother.’” Please remain standing. (sing “Majesty”)
( This part of the sermon by Pastor Davey) I love historical trivia. I found, in my study, a note that gave some very important things that happened, this month, many years ago. And, one hundred forty five years ago, this month, Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd. Two hundred fifty three years ago, the great pioneer Daniel Boone was born. Sixty five years ago, on November 4th, the entrance to King Tut’s tomb was discovered in Egypt. And the discoverer almost missed the find of a lifetime when he ignored his worker’s comments that they had discovered steps. Twenty years ago, an overdrawn book was returned to the library at the University of Cincinnati. It had been out since 1823, that’s a hundred and sixty four years. The fine was figured to be $22,646! It would take an honest person to return that book! December, a month from now, one hundred ninety five years ago, Beethoven took his first piano lesson from Franz Joseph Hayden, and it cost him 19 cents.
I like thinking of all of the wonderful things that happened years ago. But, ladies and gentlemen, we are coming to a passage, this morning, that gives us the recording of something very tragic that happened many years ago. In fact, it’s known by those who write about this situation, and I’m sure you’ve heard something about it, it’s known as the unpardonable sin. That’s when it was committed. I want us to look at this passage and yet, I find myself, as we have been studying through the Gospel of Mark, when I come to this passage, I almost don the hat of an evangelist because it is directed to those who do not know Jesus Christ as personal Savior. And maybe there is someone here, this morning, like that. And I caution you to listen carefully because you may find yourself in the party with these men. If you are a believer, I want you to take heart and rejoice because your sins have been forgiven.
Mark, chapter 3, verse 20, begins with the simple thought that the crowds are continuing to grow. It says, “And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not” - even eat. You know that Jesus has returned to His home in Capernaum, the borrowed house where He lives. And the crowds have so gathered about that home, they’ve so packed in that front foyer area and probably spilled out into the street, they were so close to Christ and His disciples, that they are not even able to eat. They couldn’t even pause. You see, they had found out that this man could heal. And now, Jesus is not so much going to them to heal them, I believe that, they are probably rushing to Him, not even waiting for His hand but reaching out to touch Him. The masses were following Him. The people, I think, were believing that He was who He said He was. In fact, Luke expands this account and says that the people were saying, “Surely, this man is the son of David.” They were catching on. And although the opposition is rising, the people, I think, were beginning to believe the words of Jesus Christ.
And, I think, a present day application of that simple truth could be, and if you have notes, perhaps you could jot it into your notes, that spiritual discernment is not for religious leaders only. In fact, the tragedy is, these people followed their religious leaders and they failed to question, failed to ask, they failed to think for themselves. And so, instead of revival, there was rebellion. Instead of repentance, there was a riot. Instead of the kingdom that had been offered, there was a crucifixion. You see, you need to understand that, in the context of this setting, in this dispensational context, that the people were bound by the decision of their leaders. If their leaders said, “Yes,” the people would directly benefit. If their leaders said, “No,” then the people would suffer. It’s kind of the same way if you are a man who has a wife and family. You can decide something for yourself but it will, ultimately, affect the family. So you need to understand that these people were following the religious leaders and, although they were stepping back and saying, “Look, this man must be the son of David, He must be genuine,” because the religious leaders would refuse Him, they would indirectly and then later directly pay the consequences.
But I want you to notice, as well, secondly, that His family continues to misunderstand. Look at verse 21, “And when His friends” - literally translated, “His family” - “heard of it, they went out to lay hold on Him: for they said, ‘He is beside Himself.’” - or “He’s lost His senses. He’s mad. He’s crazy.” And they had good reason to. And I’ll just give you three to jot down. First of all, He had, literally, thrown away His reputation. He had thrown away the reputation that He had had, probably, as a very honest, hard working carpenter. He was probably well known, He was a very compassionate man. Before He entered the ministry, people probably loved Him. But, He throws away His reputation and becomes a maverick, saying very strange things. It’s fascinating to note that He does not care what His reputation is. One man wrote that the voice for most people, the voice of their neighbor’s, is louder than the voice of their God. But for Jesus Christ, He would continue to do the will of His Father regardless of what the neighbors said, regardless of what society declared. He had thrown away His reputation.
Secondly, He had forfeited His security. You’ve got to understand that, even in that day, there was security. And Jesus Christ had forfeited it. You know, what we consider very valuable, a bank account, a credit file, and equity and all of this. No equity. No credit file. He lived in a borrowed house. He spent most of His nights on a fishing boat. He had forfeited personal security. He must be crazy.
Then, thirdly, He had ignored His personal safety. You see, you do not take on the Pharisees. You don’t take on the scribes. You don’t put them in a box. You don’t back them in a corner and expect to get away with it. In fact, as a result of this, death threats would be constant. And yet, He threw away His own personal safety. He would often travel on the road that was known as “the highway of robbers” because He had to get to Jericho. He disregarded, as it were, His personal safety because of His mission.
And so, everybody just watching this man, they could see all of these things that He was doing and it was amazing! They figured that He must be crazy. He must be out of His senses. He must be mad. And so His family comes “to lay hold on Him”. The original word is the word that we could translate, “arrest.” They come to forcibly take Him. Now, the Pharisees would like to arrest Him but it was for His own harm. His family wanted to arrest Him but it was for His own good. You need to understand that they love Him. And so, they were going to come to this poor, demented Jesus, who has gone out of His head, and they were going to take Him away for some rest. “And maybe, if we get Him home, His lunacy will end.” So His family continues to misunderstand.
Let me give you a present day application. The work of God does not need men’s approval. In fact, I think that, most people, who often do a work for Jesus Christ, are often misunderstood. You know, we had a testimony here by David, who didn’t get into all of it but, he was disowned, he was disinherited, he was offered death threats. All because his family said, “You must be crazy to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. And as soon as you throw away that, you can come back to Israel and you can be included back into our family.” It was the same idea. You know, we look at men like D. L. Moody, a man who I admire greatly, and we see all of the grand things that he did. And we forget that, in his day, the media dubbed him with the title, “Crazy Moody.” You see, he’d pick up the newspaper and he wouldn’t see what you and I see today, he would see the headlines, “Crazy Moody In Town.” People are often misunderstood. I know you are, aren’t you? One of my favorite historical characters is Winston Churchill. And I was listening to Dr. Sweeting preach the other day, who was the former president of Moody Bible Institute, and he was giving a story about Winston Churchill, who was often misunderstood. In fact, you either hated him or you loved him. And a lady came up to him, who was one of his arch enemies. And she had spit in her eye and I mean she was mad and she said, “Mr. Churchill, if I were your wife, I’d put arsenic in your tea.” And Churchill, without even batting an eye, said, “Lady, if you were my wife, I’d drink it.” You know, when we look at person like Jesus Christ, we need to understand that He was completely and totally misunderstood. Totally.
The religious leaders, thirdly, continued to accuse. Look at the next few verses, “And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said”. Now look, they travel over 100 miles to come down and give their verdict and this is it, “He hath Beelzebub” - He has the lord of the house, He has the prince of the demons as His power. You see, one of the problems that Jesus had given them was the fact that He exorcised demons from demon possessed people. And in the scribes writings, that was, to them, proof that you had the power of God. Only one who had the power of God could remove from a person an evil spirit. And so, Jesus Christ comes along, and Luke expands this again and tells us that right before they say this, He exorcises a demon. So He boxes them in the corner. And so, they cannot deny it but, instead of attributing it to the power of God, they say He is empowered by Satan himself. He is demon possessed, not just with a demon but, with the person of Satan.
And so, I want you to notice the way that Jesus Christ comes back to them. And He says, in verse 23, “How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” He says, “Look! Wake up! Common sense! If I’m empowered by Satan, why would I then cast out a demon that’s doing harm? What sense would that make? I’m dividing My efforts.” And then He illustrates it further by saying, He says, “Look, if a burglar goes into a house, he cannot rob until he ties up the owner.” Jesus Christ, in effect, says, “I am invading Satan’s territory but in order to do it, I must be more powerful than Satan. Can’t you see that I, in fact, have the power of God?” And they refused.
In fact, in your notes you ought to jot in that they rejected three witnesses. We’re coming to this part of the unpardonable sin but you need to understand that they rejected three witnesses. The first witness that they rejected was the witness of the Father. You see, these men had been there. They had heard the rumbling in the clouds, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The leaders had been there. They heard it and they refused it.
And then, secondly, they refused the words and the works of Jesus Christ. In fact, chapter 2, verse 10, He had the power over demons. And He, in fact, fulfilled prophecy after prophecy and they refused the testimony of the person of Jesus Christ.
And now, finally, they refused the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Two thoughts on that, the function of the Holy Spirit is two-fold, it was then, in that day, and it is today. The first function of the Holy Spirit is to reveal the truth of God to men and women. He is the revealer of truth. And secondly, He enables an individual to recognize that it IS truth, when they see it. And Jesus Christ was there, in front of them, literally, visibly performing miracles that only could be attributed to the power of God and the Holy Spirit enabled these men to recognize truth. They knew it and yet, they rejected it instead of receiving it.
You know, the Holy Spirit has an unusual work in your life and in my life. If you are without Jesus Christ, it is the work of conviction, it is the work of proving, in your heart, that you need Jesus Christ. Now, we can ignore it and we can refuse it or we can accept it. But the Holy Spirit is at work, even now. I read a story of a man, in Europe, who was a well know, scholarly professor; his name, Dr. Webster. And he committed a terrible murder. And he was thrown into one of the worst dungeons in France. And, about three days later, he called to the jailer and he said, “Please, take the man out of the cell next to me and put him somewhere else. All night he is saying, ‘Dr. Webster is a murderer. Dr. Webster is a murderer. Dr. Webster is a murderer.’” And the jailer looked back at him and he said, “Sir, the cell next to you is empty.” You know, nobody had to tell me that I needed Jesus Christ. Now, when I heard the Gospel, the Holy Spirit used that truth, in my life, and enabled me to recognize that I needed Him. The Holy Spirit enabled these men to recognize that Jesus was who He said He was and they refused it.
Let me give you a definition of the unpardonable sin. Are you ready? What is the unpardonable sin? What was it to them and how can we translate it through time to us today, if possible? The unpardonable sin is this: recognizing the truth and refusing to receive the truth. Recognizing the truth of who Jesus Christ is and refusing to receive the person of Jesus Christ. That’s the unpardonable sin. It’s not necessarily one act. It is a lifestyle of rebellion. It is a lifestyle that says, “No,” to God. “I don’t want Jesus Christ and I know He’s true and I know He’s who He says He is but I don’t want Him, I refuse Him.” You could put it another way, “The unpardonable sin,” as one man wrote, “is the sin that you will not confess.” You see, repentance has to be our part. Forgiveness is God’s part. And He will not just automatically wipe all of your sins, as an unsaved individual, under the carpet and say, “Okay, I’ll blink and you slip into heaven.” It doesn’t happen. There has to be something done on our part. And that is, simply, going to Him and instead of refusing, receiving.
Jesus continues to invite, the next few verses, verses 31 to 35. And I love this. You know, it’s as if He just told the people what they needed to do to go to hell. They needed to refuse Me. And now, He turns it around and He says, “Now, if you want to go to heaven, this is what you do.” “And He answered them,” - verse 33 - “saying, ‘Who is My mother, or My brethren?’ And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, ‘Behold’” - these people are - “My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.” Now, in this context, what is doing the will of God? Doing the will of God, in this passage, is receiving the person of Jesus Christ, for who He says He is. “If you do that, if you do the will of God in receiving the person of Christ, you then are included in My family. You then are My brother. You then are My sister. You are My mother.” There is a kinship because you have received, and that is the will of God.
And the family of God consists of people having several things in common. Number one, they have in common an experience, they have received Christ. They have in common an interest, that is, promoting Jesus Christ. And they have in common a goal, becoming more like Jesus Christ. And if you have accepted Him, you are part of the family. There is a kinship here that transcends any family tie. This is stronger because we belong to Him.
Now, there are two questions, in closing, that demand answers. And, I imagine, that you are probably thinking these questions. Number one, is it possible for a Christian to commit the unpardonable sin? Is it possible for you, as a believer, to commit the unpardonable sin? The answer is, “No.” Because, my friend, when you accepted Jesus Christ, your past sin, your present sin, and all of your future sin is under the blood. You will never stand guilty before God. You are justified. I mean, it is as if you never sinned. You are justified in your standing. It’s a judicial act or He declares you righteous. Now I do sin, don’t I? Of course. And that forfeits future reward. That forfeits the abundant life. But it will never forfeit your eternal home. So it is impossible for a Christian to commit the unpardonable sin. “There is . . . no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:1. Romans 5:1 says that, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. There is a peace treaty that has been signed and God will never erase His name. And nothing then can separate us from the love of the person of Jesus Christ.
I say this cautiously because I don’t want you to misunderstand but, as a seventeen year old boy, I was rebelling against the Lord, against the truth that I knew about Jesus Christ, and I was unsaved. And I had heard a preacher preach that it was possible to commit the unpardonable sin and the unpardonable sin was cursing the Holy Spirit. It says here that if you “blaspheme” the Holy Spirit. And I am telling you that the word, “blaspheme,” is a general term that refers to “a lifestyle of rejecting Him.” That’s the blaspheme of the Holy Spirit. But, in my rebellion, I can remember going into my bedroom and shutting the door and thinking, “If there is the possibility of sealing my doom, I will do it. God will never have me. And I will never have Him.” And so, I thought of every possible word I could think of and I cursed the person of the Holy Spirit. But the wonderful thing is that the Holy Spirit never let go of me. And He kept working. And a year later, in that same room, I can still remember, climbing out of my bed and getting on my knees and receiving. As long as I was in that rebellious state, I was living the life of an unpardonable sin. I was because I was refusing the person of Christ. But the moment I accepted Him, He forgave me.
Is it possible, secondly, for an unsaved person to commit the unpardonable sin? And the answer to that is, “Yes.” It is unpardonable so long as you refuse to repent. So, my friend, as long as there is breath in your life, as long as you are alive, you CAN come to Christ and be forgiven. “And him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”
I read a tragic story, not long ago, of a man who had committed many crimes. He was a serial murderer. And he was placed in prison and he was doomed for the electric chair. His brother was a very powerful politician, in that town, and very wealthy. And so he got, from the governor of the state, in the last hour of that man’s life, a pardon. And he stuck that pardon in his pocket and he headed for the prison. But he thought to himself, “Perhaps, my brother has not changed. Maybe, there is a chance that he still has murderous intent.” And so, instead of going to the authority, this brother went directly to the jail cell, where his brother was put, with a pardon in his pocket. And he went to his brother and he said, “My brother, listen, if you got out of here today, if somehow you could get out, what would you do?” And his brother, still seething with anger and with hatred, said, “If I got out of here, I would kill every witness against me. I would make sure that the prosecutor was dead tonight.” And that brother, with the pardon in his pocket, turned and walked out of the jail and his brother died.
You know, that is a classic illustration, my friend, of the person of Christ coming to you with a pardon. He is the pardon. And all He wants you to do is be in such a state that you will say, “Yes, I am willing to repent. I am willing to receive the person of Christ into my life.” The moment you simply receive, as Paul told that jailer, you then move from the state of an unpardonable sin into the family of God.